Gillibrand ‘88 picked for N.Y. Senate seat
By Anya Perret, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, January 23, 2009
New York Gov. David Paterson has tapped Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand '88, D-N.Y., to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who was confirmed as secretary of State on Wednesday, Paterson announced at a Friday press conference. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, had long been viewed as the front-runner for the appointment, but removed herself from consideration on Thursday.
Gillibrand, a 41-year-old mother of two, is the first female -- and only current -- Dartmouth graduate to serve as a U.S. senator. Paterson said Gillibrand will resign from the House of Representatives and be sworn in as senator this weekend.
"I will strive for economic and social justice," Gillibrand said at the news conference. "I will advocate for marriage rights, women's rights, preserving Social Security and the retirement that our seniors seem to be losing every day, and call for significant investments in education, and I will be a voice for our farmers and veterans in Washington."
Gillibrand's appointment follows weeks of public speculation about the Senate vacancy. Media and political analysts initially focused on New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as the most likely contender, with Gillibrand and other state officials seen as potential alternatives. After Kennedy declared her intention to seek the nomination, attention turned to her.
The circumstances surrounding Kennedy's decision to withdraw this week remain unclear, although media outlets have reported that there were issues regarding taxes and the status of a household employee.
Aides close to Paterson previously told The New York Times that the governor hoped to fill the position with someone who was a woman, Hispanic, from upstate New York, or some combination of the three.
"I will look for ways to strive for common ground between upstate and downstate. There are so many issues where we can come together on," Gillibrand said at the conference.
Gillibrand was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, prior to which she had not held elected office.
Paterson said he was glad New York would finally have statewide representation, explaining that the state has not had an upstate senator since 1970.
"She is dynamic, she is articulate, she is perceptive, she is courageous, she is outspoken," Paterson said.
As senator, Gillibrand said she will focus on promoting manufacturing, sustainable energy, environmentally friendly transportation, middle class tax cuts and agribusiness. She is considered a centrist, sometimes conservative Democrat, receiving a 100-percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association. She supports abortion rights.
Gillibrand may seek appointment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Agricultural Committee or Environment and Public Works Committee, according to The New York Times. Gillibrand, who currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said in the press conference that she hoped to be on the equivalent Senate committee, but there are currently no spaces available.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Gillibrand an "outstanding choice" and added that Clinton was "effusive" in praising her replacement.
"Kirsten Gillibrand is a talented legislator and public servant," he said. "And she is one of the most effective and aggressive younger members of the House."
Gillibrand's spokeswoman declined to comment on the selection Thursday and did not return requests for comment on Friday.
Kristen Liu '11, who was an intern in Gillibrand's congressional office last summer, called the congresswoman an "incredibly intelligent woman" who took an interest in the daily lives and concerns of her office staff.
"I really respected her attempts to make her office, and the entire legislative process, more accountable and transparent for her constituents," Liu said.
Liu added that Gillibrand was very involved in the policy process, and would often debate her staff and interns on legislative issues.
A member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Gillibrand graduated from the College magna cum laude with a major in Asian studies. She received a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.